Your union recently kicked against plans by BPE to concession NPA, is there any update?
Your union recently kicked against plans by BPE to concession NPA, is there any update?
The update is what we have told you so far, the law that enables BPE and other government functionaries to cede terminals to private hands is the Port Act of 1999, that Act also enables the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Ministry of Transport to do same by involving private sector in all our operations, this is what we have done to marine and harbor services. Today we have the Lagos Channel Management (LCM) managing the channels of the Lagos area, we have the Bonny Channel Management (BCC) manning the outer ports, we have recently a contract given to a company to manage Calabar channels, it was not done by the BPE, it was done by the Nigeria Ports Authority and the Ministry of Transport under the same Port Act, the same law was used to cede terminals to private hands, we are using the public and the private hands together to maximize the benefits and to bring the operations of marine and harbor services to world standard, and that is what we have achieved, except we want to satisfy our selfish needs and if we do this we would bring down the hearty achievements in that system, what you will now be hearing will be the same flaws that have encompassed the NNPC and other companies, God forbid. Our own position is clear, and that is, superior arguments or realities should be followed, if the NPA has performed then give us kudos, the National Assembly has come here to see and they have given us a clean bill on all our operations.
Is it true that these channel management companies are indirectly owned by NPA past MD’s and their cronies?
If anybody is alleging that they own these companies, well we are all Nigerians, we know we had late Gani Fawehinmi, we have Barrister Bamidele Aturu, the way they behave, we should also be behaving like that, if I know this I will take you to court and I will tackle you headlong because the constitution does not permit it, but if this is not substantiated by relevant quarters then it does not hold water before me, I don’t speculate, and these are mere speculations until you prove it, if you go to the CAC you will know the owners of these companies.
Are you satisfied with the recent shake up in the NPA management by the MD?
It is okay, it ensures that you are the master of what you are professing, it brings in the best by giving out responsibilities, in fact I see it as long overdue, nobody was belittled in the posting, they were all given a responsibility that will move NPA to the next level, the shakeup is to attain our goals and objectives and it is in the right direction. All of the managers have been performing well, if you go to western zone now, you will see that the place has changed, the woman there is adding value to what her predecessor has done, also if you go to the human resources angle a lot of things are going on, of course the MD is new and he is bringing in new innovations and it is working for us, if there is anything wrong we would have told you since, I think we are okay.
What is your take on the seeming showdown between NPA and Escravos pilots?
If the pilots bring themselves together to better their lives, there must be an entity that must be legal, and if you have a legal entity they will know how to get their money, but where it is illegal is to just begging and scouting for jobs. I am sorry we have our own pilots, they are world standard, there are classed master mariners on the payroll of NPA and these are the people we represent.
Do you agree with the minister of transport that Nigerian ports are overstretched?
If you say the ports are lying fallow, I will disagree with you, it takes a professional to understand what port operations are all about, ports are built to meet specific needs, FOT in Onne is not built for any other thing than to anchor oil services, to ensure effective delivery of NLNG, Apapa port is meant to handle cargoes, bulk and liquid, Tin Can port is built to support the services of the Apapa port, if you are demolishing available spaces and giving them to industrial establishment and then turn back to say the ports are over stretched, then you need to ask yourself questions, does the master plan of the port take care of all these tank farms, flour mills, was it an industrial port from the beginning? If you want to build an industrial port, we will know it is an industrial port, if you go to other countries’ industrial ports you will not see any human traffic other than the people working in these areas, let us sit down and see where we have made a mistake, call on professionals like us, because when professionals are talking other people will keep quiet.
What is way out of the tank farm menace?
It will be a bombshell, we just hope and pray that we don’t witness any major accident here, we are not safe, all these Olodi Apapa that you see, one kilometer radius; we are not safe, same goes for the ones at dockyard, when there was civil war, the Igbo’s said if you want to conquer Lagos just bomb the tank farms, they tried it but they did not succeed, I think we should take a lesson from this.
Would you say our ports are exhausted already?
If you want to build new ports, there are certain factors that you must consider and there are certain parameters that you must fulfill; first is the connectivity of the modes of transport, if you tell me that because of the better outlay you want to build another port I will say yes, if you say it is industrial port, I will say it is in the right direction, if you say it is to handle general cargo and the rest then I will tell you No, instead, connect all the existing ports by rail and have a dry port, the port of today is mainly a storage facility which shouldn’t be, any cargo coming in must be moved to the hinterland very close to where they are going and this will enhance door to door delivery. When the colonial masters in those days exported groundnut and cocoa they didn’t process it at the port, they have dry ports where they left it and they now moved it by rail, and as soon as it is coming to the port it goes straight to the ship, that is why we have the Kano pyramid, the cocoas are stored in bags, from there they move straight to the vessel, if we can be taking goods immediately they arrive the port, you will see that it will no longer be congested.
So what would you suggest the Badagry port be built for?
First of all, we don’t have a transport policy, the one drafted in 2010 is yet to be approved, we have to start from somewhere, we have to go back and start afresh, the ones we have done right should be accommodated, where there is need for amendment should be brought up and ensure that we have a transport policy that will guarantee all our needs as it relate to industrial ports, petroleum product, general cargo and so on. If you say the Badagry port should be used for general cargo because of the depth of the water, I will say it’s okay, the Badagry port should be linked by rail, so that immediately the goods come in it will be moved out by rail, if we do that, Mr. President will sleep and close his two eyes, he will not be worried about unemployment in Nigeria, he will not worry about how to finance projects in Nigeria, but where there is no rail and we make use of the roads only and it keeps on being over used, the maintenance cost will be high and there will not be construction of new ones, but if we can focus on the rail, our roads will last longer and it will take more than 30 years before we can come to repair it, but we know the rail is capital intensive, but it can take a 100 years, the old rail lines constructed by the colonial masters is still the one we have in existence.
How will you react to the suggestion that NIMASA should hand over maritime security to Navy?
That statement was brought about by necessity; the rate of pirate activity on our waterways is alarming. In the world Nigeria ranks number two; after Somalia and this is not good for our economy, we are losing billions of Naira in that process and lives are being lost, maybe that is why they feel NIMASA is not achieving, so Navy should take over, No, NIMASA is achieving but when you see the sophisticated weapons being used by these pirates you will know that NIMASA is not armed, but when you talk about security, it is not only the pirates that pose security threat, we have vessels that come in illegally with dangerous cargo, it is the duty of NIMAS to ensure that these vessels are checked, this is not the work of the Navy, the work of the Navy is to shoot at the enemy and here we are not to shoot any vessel with dangerous cargo, we are to arrest them, prosecute them and let the law take its course, that is why Navy alone cannot handle security because I don’t think they are trained to identify which cargo is dangerous, but two of them should work together just like we have JTF in Maiduguri without leaving it for Police alone.
Why do you think Local Content law has done better than the Cabotage law?
We need to have a distinctive and straightened policy that will assist in this regard, where indigenous ship owners cannot access loan and no funds, things cannot work compared with other countries, in a situation whereby government is thinking of buying aircrafts for the private operators in the Aviation sector, it should also be extended to the maritime sector to boost the Cabotage law, when you now acquire vessels and hand them over to the private sector to operate, maintain it and pay back, by so doing you will see that our indigenous ship owners will perform excellently, they are educated, they are resourceful but they lack the wherewithal to acquire the vessels.
How can the ship acquisition dream be realized?
There is need for government to come to their aid, they are in Nigeria and we are seeing them, the vessel is not going to get missing, so government will recoup its money, let them assist, the Nigerian maritime industry is very large, you know how many years it takes to buy a ship and how much it costs.
Can Nigerians maintain these containerized vessels?
Yes. If it is to fabricate the parts we have dockyard that will fabricate it, Nigerdock is also there, we might not have the one that can take a larger vessel, however let us have the vessel and see what will happen, because if we don’t have such vessels and you are dreaming of acquiring a dry dock of such size, it takes one out of the other.
What are your expectations from the maritime sector this year?
My expectation and our expectation as a body is that the government should listen to professionals this year, if we must move forward; they should tow the line of professionals and not politics.